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Contours of Conflict: The West’s Role in the Radicalization Dilemma”

We condemned the attacks of Hamas that also targeted Israeli civilians on the same day. Many Muslim intellectuals and opinion leaders around the world also condemned terrorism and rejected it. However, similar to the post-9/11 period, those who rejoiced over the death of Israeli civilians were shared in the media, and their “prayers of gratitude” circulated. Unfortunately, the political Islamist mindset rejoicing over the deaths of others is a situation we encounter.

We know from the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya that before major operations, a large number of fake news, pictures, and evidence are produced to disturb the conscience and persuade the world.

Some intelligence services first create a pretext for their operations and then base their operations on that pretext. If the powers to conduct the operation are authoritarian countries like China or Russia, they only need to present a reason to international actors. They do not have an independent media, public opinion, or people they need to persuade. Democratic forces are concerned with convincing their own people and media. Depending on the magnitude of the operation, the pretexts become more sophisticated and robust.

Unfortunately, strange developments have been taking place after the Hamas attack on October 7.

More than a month has passed. Following Israel’s bombings of Gaza, more than 10,000 civilians were killed, of which over 4,000 were children under 16. Many women, elderly, and sick people died due to the bombings. Hospitals, schools, and ambulances were hit. Israel did not care and rained random bombs on the tiny area.

Israel did not hesitate to admit that it deliberately killed civilians. When it was stated that bombing cities is a crime under international law, Israel displayed an attitude of “we do it, and it happens!” In fact, Israeli Defense Minister Galant dehumanized the people of Gaza by saying, “We are Fighting Against Human-like Animals,” reminiscent of Hitler’s treatment of Jews.

While US and Western-backed Israeli bombs were spewing death, thankfully Western publics objected to the massacre and called for a ceasefire. Protests against Israel took place in Western metropolises, including many Jews. But Western states, many media organizations, and institutions continued to stand behind Israel unconditionally and indifferently. They did not even consider the ceasefire, a very humane call. They indirectly/explicitly indicated that Israel had the right to kill and could do anything it wanted.

In my opinion, this is a moral collapse for Western states. Their unconditional support for Israel, which openly violates the democratic values, human rights, freedom of expression, right to protest, property rights, and right to life they try to sell to the world, has wounded consciences and shaken trusts. Moreover, they removed from office those who objected to the massacre, opened investigations, and banned some protests.

Such behavior is not rational. It is not enough to explain the matter with negligence or naivety. One cannot help but think if this is part of a planned, targeted sequence of events. However, there is a big problem either way. If it is due to negligence, then the democratic West has lost its prudence and detached from rationality. If they are acting this way as part of a larger project that we are not fully aware of, then the Middle East and Muslims are awaiting another bloody and dark period.

The West, whose hegemonic power and capacity are increasingly questioned, accelerates its demise by standing unconditionally behind Israel and destroying its own values. Powers that have lost moral superiority cannot be influential for long, even if they maintain technological and armed strength. That’s why Western public opinion is questioning the West first and foremost.

If the Hamas attack and the subsequent events are triggers for a regional or global project, the Middle East will witness new proxy wars, and Muslims will be exploited. Absolute support for Israel’s actions will lead to the radicalization of Muslim youth, the strengthening of Hamas, the more dominant political Islam, and the weakening of reasonable voices in Muslim geographies.

If this is part of a plan, radicalizing and drawing Muslims into violence could be part of it. In that case, Israel’s actions and the West’s stance make sense. Otherwise, there is no rational explanation for what we have experienced in the past month, neither for Israel nor its Western supporters.

What is being done, what we are experiencing, indicates that new fires are being lit in the Middle East and that it will get fiercer. If there is such a roadmap, we should expect new events, explosions, maybe even suicide attacks that will make Muslims look “unpleasant, murderous, cruel, ignorant” in the world.

While the last Hamas attack provides a pretext for an operation in Gaza for Israel, it is not sufficient if there are bigger plans and targets. To be able to make extensive political and military redesigns, it is necessary to prepare the psychological infrastructure first. For that, it is necessary to increase the hatred and anger of Muslims and to make them appear violent.

In addition to ideological approaches, among the reasons for radicalization are pressure, persecution, occupation, exile, rejection, humiliation, not leaving living space, devaluation, and dehumanization. All of these are present in what Israel has done to the people of Gaza. There is also a political Islamist, violence-prone ideology in Gaza. We certainly take into account the propensity for violence and susceptibility to manipulation of some Muslims, but when you look at the issue from a broader perspective, there seems to be an intention to enrage and radicalize Muslims, not only in the Middle East but around the world, over a symbolic issue like Palestine.

God forbid, if terror incidents that will be billed to Muslims follow, as happened after 9/11, the atmosphere will change instantly. The issue could turn into a questioning of the existence of Muslims living in the West. We could see a rapid rise in far-right and Islamophobia.

What I have written may be considered speculative, but it is inspired by the projects we have previously experienced. I hope none of these happen. I hope the democratic West finds a reasonable line, adheres to its own values, and prioritizes humanity. But it seems that the continuation of events will again burn the Middle East and harm Muslims. Because it is the most suitable area for shedding blood and setting fires. It is the geography of bleeding open wounds. A geography where the will of the peoples does not reflect in the administrations, where dictators make decisions. A slim chance is that the recent events are aimed at dragging the West into a maelstrom. But in any case, the Middle East seems to be heating up. I hope I am wrong, God willing, I will be proven wrong.

Radicalization of Muslims first and foremost harms Muslims themselves. Therefore, in such situations, it should be Muslims who should act most sensibly and maintain their balance.

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Mahmut Akpinar
Mahmut Akpinar
Dr. Mahmut Akpinar is a political scientist focusing on international relations and Turkish politics.

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